“What’s Cooking, Ma?”
This loving query by my son-in-law sends shivers down my spine.
My daughter is home with her culinary passionate husband and I, eternally challenged person as far as cooking is concerned, am at a loss to answer this question.
“Kitch.en [kich-uhn]-noun - A gathering place for family and friends-a place where memories are homemade and seasoned with love”, says the kitchen magnet on our refrigerator.
Nothing could be more ironic than that.
In Indian households, a Son-in-law is the V.V.I.P., an effusive recipient of gestures of ceremony. Whetting Damaad's appetite is very essential for he is the surrogate God,his approval of what is prepared and served is a matter of relief to the entire household. Special importance is given to a spread of cuisine, a dastarkhan replete with mouth watering delicacies and the obligatory finale with sweets when the special guest comes visiting.
Matters can take an unsavoury turn when the honoured guest is an expert cook, having zero tolerance for badly cooked food.
My Son- In- Law can rustle amazing meals in a jiffy that look good and taste good.I wish I can say that for myself.
“In cooking”, said Julia Child, the mother of cookery books, “you’ve got to have a what-the-hell-attitude”. Well! I agree but only with the hell part of it for I am capable of producing inedible waste.
“What is this ?”, asked my fastidious son-in law, fixing his gaze on the steaming hot preparation with fascination bordering on horror. “Why is it yellow? Sabudana (sago) Khichri is not supposed to have turmeric.”
I overheard my patient daughter telling him not to ask too many questions. “Mummy is experimental, you know! Turmeric is anti-carcinogenic. It is auspicious too.”
Bless her, my guardian angel!
Mothers are supposed to be culinary goddesses, obsessed about feeding their children delicious meals that would linger in their memory forever. My children had accepted long ago that I was not blessed with the magic of dishing delights that titillate taste buds.
From ingesting to digesting, my cooking is unpredictable. The artful elements of cooking-patience, passion and enthusiasm, crucial for good cooking are sadly missing in me.
The curries generally have varying salt content. When I am feeling low, the level of sodium chloride in the glutinous gravy is high and vice-versa. The chapatis can be taken for crunchy papadams. The dal is watery, the rice underdone and the green vegetables strangely become brown when served. Hunger is not aroused till one feels faint from lack of nourishment.
I have no excuse but to improve culinary skills in my greying years. The internet is full of DIY video instructions of amazing delicacies. The shelves of bookstores are groaning under the weight of cookery books yet I remain as nonplussed as ever.
In my domain, I maybe surrounded by recipes, the much needed ingredients and spices but unfortunately I am also endowed with flavourless hands that refuse to infuse taste in any meal that I cook. The assortment of chutneys, pickles and spicy condiments provide relief to meals, supplied by sympathetic souls who have tasted my bland cooking.
Feeding people is suffused with an act of love. I try to add loads of love but cooking hates me. I guess It's ripe time to offer culinary penance by joining a cookery class for beginners so that the life of my loved ones,insipid for so long, becomes sapid for a change.
Next time when Jamai babu visits, I fervently hope it will be a pleasant meal that I will serve without repeating the culinary horrors of the past and the family reunion will make gastronomic memories of the pleasant kind.